Paul Jacob

Really, I'm not obsessed. Sure, I talk about it some. Okay, a lot. I'm a big fan. But the thing is, the doggone subject just won't go away.

Just the other day I was minding my own business, attending a forum at the Cato Institute on Stephen Slivinski's new book, Buck Wild: How the Republicans Broke the Bank and Became the Party of Big Government, when the issue pops right out seemingly from nowhere.

Slivinski blasts the big spending Republican Congress and points to what he calls "the curse of incumbency." A curse, he says, that "can be measured in dollar terms." Slivinski recites chapter and verse of numerous studies of congressional behavior all demonstrating that politicians vote for evermore spending the longer they stay in office.

The answer, according to Slivinski, is obvious: term limits.

Yep. Term limits. And I didn't say a word.

Slivinski also pointed to the fact that only the few congressmen who made and kept term limits pledges have been able to resist the corrupting, big-spending influence of Washington and stay true to their limited government agenda. "Indeed," writes Slivinski, "many of these 'self-limiters' were the main reason the Republican Revolution was able to accomplish anything at all."

I just sat there quietly.

Next, Robert Novak, one of the few "inside" columnists to sport a true "outside" edge, offered his comments on the book and the state of our political affairs. Novak wasted no time proclaiming term limits a key solution to reverse the re-election-obsessed short-sightedness that is leading our government to fiscal insanity, bankruptcy and all the calamities that come with it.


But Novak quickly went on to diagnose a strong lack of enthusiasm on the part of our career congressmen. When it comes to term limits, Congress refuses to consider a reform supported by 3-out-of-4 citizens. Not surprising, since the careerists see no greater interest than to personally retain power.

That's when I wish I could have expounded on my view that term limits (and other reforms) will ultimately bubble up to Congress from the states and localities. Why? Voters in many cities and states enjoy initiative rights and can go over the heads of politicians to clean up their messes and restore effective citizen control.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.